My Fitness Journey

My Fitness Journey

Early Life

I was born and raised on the Big Island of Hawai’i. I grew up in a large family at what would be considered below the poverty level. From an early age I learned what it meant to work hard for the things that you wanted because they weren’t going to be handed to you. As a kid, growing up poor sucked. Most of my clothes were hand-me-downs, we lived off of food from the Food Bank, and I never had the latest and greatest of anything. In retrospect, this was a key factor in making me who I am today and I’m actually very grateful for it. Growing up in this manner instilled in me some of my core values: hard work, resilience, growth, and success.

The Weight Struggle

I wish I could say I found my passion for bodybuilding early on, but that wasn’t the case for me. I was never an athlete per se in high school. Dabbling in several sports including soccer, golf and tennis, I never loved any of these enough to stick with them. Not to mention sports were expensive and sometimes there just weren’t enough funds to go toward extracurricular activities. My passion for bodybuilding came a little later in life around my early 20s.

Working 2-3 jobs, having a poor relationship with food, and the fact that my idea of a balanced diet was getting veggies on my nightly pizza was a recipe for excessive weight gain. I am quite the overachiever, so instead of gaining the “Freshman 15” I gained the “Freshman 40.” After years of being uncomfortable in my own skin, doing every fad diet imaginable, and signing up for gym memberships only to go for two weeks then fall off for months on end, I decided enough was enough.

My Fitness Journey

There wasn’t one instance or event that made me want to change my life and my physique. It was an accumulation of me feeling like I was losing control over what was happening in my life, not liking what I saw in the mirror, and feeling sluggish and tired all the time. At this point I had already moved away from Hawai’i and was living in a small town in Montana. The only gym available to me was in the town’s community center basement.

It wasn’t anything fancy: half the equipment was rusted out, the ceiling leaked in some spots, and there was no heat in the middle of winter. But it’s here that I found the spark that ignited my love for bodybuilding. It’s also where I dropped my “Freshman 40,” gained control of my life, and started to feel better mentally and physically.

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Finding Bodybuilding

Being brand new to the gym, I spent a lot of time on bodybuilding forums reading up on topics such as how to build muscle and proper nutrition. Through this I started to take an interest in bodybuilding competitions. I thought the physiques of Gina Aliotti and Jennifer Gates, to name a few, were phenomenal. Seeing these physiques inspired me and planted the idea of competing in my head.

Fast forward about a year later and a relocation to Oregon. I decided it was time to set my sights on the goal of competing in my very first NPC Figure competition. I didn’t know the first thing about competition prep, so I ended up hiring an online coach that a gym acquaintance suggested. Just like that, I was on my way to making my dream of becoming a figure competitor a reality. In 4 month’s time I was going to grace the stage with my full beautiful muscles and new fat free physique…or so I thought.

Prepping for a Show

As this was my first experience prepping for a show and having a coach, I had no idea what to expect. I did know that this was going to take a lot of sacrifice, discipline, and hard work. I was willing to do whatever it took to make my dreams a reality.

So I embraced eating cold tilapia encased in slimy gel, asparagus, and the occasional sweet potato, and I embraced the hours that I would spend on the spin bike. I embraced the suck. Getting feedback from my weekly check in every 2-3 weeks seemed to be the norm to me. I thought losing scale weight but not seeing further muscle definition was the norm. I thought all the magic happened during peak week where we manipulated sodium, cut water, and ate a ton of carbs to really “fill me out.”

Long story short, I stepped on stage looking like I still had a good 16 weeks of prep left. I got last callouts. I don’t remember my exact placing, but it very well could have been dead last. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I did everything my coach told me to do—I didn’t cheat on my meal plan, I did my cardio, I worked hard, I sacrificed. I guess I just wasn’t cut out for competing. Maybe competing wasn’t my thing, but I still loved bodybuilding and I continued to learn and develop my knowledge around bodybuilding for the years to come.

Entering the Wellness Division

After 9 years, I moved to San Antonio, Texas where I currently live. A new division within the NPC/IFBB, Wellness, had been announced. This division is for females that showcase more body mass in the hips, glutes, and thigh areas. The upper body is developed but not to the same degree as the lower body. My body naturally tends to lean more toward this physique.

Upon hearing of this new division, the spark that died all those years ago when I decided I wasn’t cut out for competing was suddenly reignited. I wanted this. Not only did I want to compete in this, I wanted to hold the coveted IFBB Pro title in this division.

Coach/Husband John Jewett

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My husband, John Jewett, took on the challenge of coaching me. We immediately got to work. What a different prep experience this was compared to my first show. Although there’s still a ton of sacrifice, discipline, and hard work involved, you don’t have to do cardio for hours on end, eat tilapia for every meal, and there’s really no crazy magic that happens during peak week.

Scale weight typically moves from week to week, but along with that come visual changes, unlike my first prep. This prep had its challenges—it wasn’t easy—but the experience was so much more rewarding.

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Becoming an IFBB Pro

Prep started around mid-January of 2020 with our sights set on a National Qualifier in June, then we would jump in to a National show shortly after. Our well laid plans were foiled when shows were cancelled and rescheduled due to Covid. What a year to decide to compete!

I finally made it to a National Qualifier on August 1st where I took first place in my class. Four weeks later, I was on my way to my first National show, JR USAs, where I placed 3rd in my class. This was a respectable placing, but not what I set out to do.

After talking with John, we made a few changes to my look and presentation. A short 5 days later I was on stage at North Americans competing in my second national show.

I knew what I set out to do, I knew how badly I wanted this, I knew how hard I worked for this. When I heard my name announced as “Renee Jewett New IFBB Pro,” the feeling was surreal. Suddenly this dream I had wasn’t a dream, it was my reality.

I went from the girl who just needed to take control of her life and lose some weight to the girl that failed at her first competition and called it quits to an IFBB Wellness Pro. All of my experiences—the obstacles and adversity that I faced—came full circle to that very moment, and with it a new fire has been set ablaze. I want to win a pro show, want to step on stage at the most prestigious bodybuilding event in the world. I want to be an Olympian.

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